Concerto for Double String Orchestra - Tippett

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When was Michael Tippett alive from and to?
1905-1998.
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When was he active?
From the 1920's to the mid 1990's.
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What sort of pieces did he write?
He wrote five operas, symphonies, string quartets, concertos, choral works and piano music.
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Which other types of music influenced this set work?
Madrigals, string fantasias, orchestral concertos (or Concerto-sinfonias), early 20th century string music, British folk music, jazz and blues.
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What in particular from English music from the 16th and early 17th century inspired elements of this set work?
Counterpoint and rhythmic exuberance.
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Why did Tippett idolise Beethoven?
Due to the use of sonata form.
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How did British folk music inspire this work?
The melodic character of some themes helped Tippett steer away from conventional tonality.
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How did jazz and blues music contribute?
They contributed the rhythmic "feel" of the piece, but were considered as a non-classical musical vernacular.
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What name has been given to the genre of this piece?
Neo-classical.
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What is uniform about the instruments of this set work?
All of the instruments fit into the basic string orchestra arrangement of Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello and Double bass, which are doubled up (because there are two string orchestras in this set work). These are not marked "1st" or "2nd".
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When are both orchestras heard together in full?
When great weight and sonority are required.
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When may parts from one orchestra double parts from the other?
In the phrygian cadence (bars 20-21), the orchestras double parts of one another.
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Does one orchestra play alone?
Briefly, and not often.
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Which string techniques are used, where and why?
Double stopping (bars 209-212), to reinforce sforzando chords, pizzicato (double bass, bars 51-52), to accompany staccato in higher parts, sul tasto (bar 107).
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How are up and down bows notated?
Up bow: v, down bow: shown by signs which look like miniature goalposts (like the letter n using straight lines).
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Describe the texture.
The set work explores the use of contrapuntal, homophonic and antiphonic textures.
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When do the number of "real parts" condense?
When parts double each other (where two players have the same melodic line).
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What happens in the final tutti?
The number of "real parts" vary from just three to six. (Bar 220 onwards)
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When is there notably an intense textural clarity?
When there are two "real parts" - in bars 1-4 where orchestra 1 uses doubling across three upper strings in three different octaves, and orchestra 2 does the same with three lower string parts.
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How is counterpoint used in this set work?
Tippet uses two ways of enforcing counterpoint - combining different melodic ideas (at the start in both orchestras), and sharing the same melodic ideas, but using imitation (in bars 8-10 and 10-12, inversion is used to imitate one another).
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How does Tippett use antiphony?
With subtlety. For example, in bars 8-12, orchestra 2 overlaps orchestra 1 a third higher. In bars 74-87, more extended and varied homophony is used.
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Describe how Tippett uses homophony.
In both chordal, homorhythmic texture (notably with a three-chord pattern heard at the end of bar 38), and melody-dominated (most notably in the transition section from bar 21).
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Which element in common sonata form is present in this set work?
Strong thematic constrast between the first and second subjects.
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How does Tippett modify this element?
At the very beginning, he combines two contrasting themes - one marcato, one espressivo.
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Which two forms does this set work utilise?
Ritornello and sonata.
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Overall, which structure does this set work use?
Sonata form.
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How can this set work's key be described?
This set work's tonality can be described to be widely in "A" - not major or minor, but the second subject can be said to be in G (again, neither major nor minor).
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How can the key be determined?
Bar 1 begins with the note "A", the last chord uses the notes A and E, the note A is prominent in a number of parts of the set work, except from bar 220.
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How is chromaticism used to confuse the key?
Where the first orchestra uses an opening melody consisting of the pentatonic scale A B D E G, both C (the mediant note in A minor) and C# (the mediant in A major) are heard in the second orchestra in bars 1-4.
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When can the key be implied to be in A major?
In parts of the Recapitulation and Coda, C# is prominent.
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How do the keys of the subjects contribute to customary sonata form?
The keys of the two subjects are different.
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When is the second subject in A instead of G?
In the recapitulation section (bar 165). This is again usual in sonata form.
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Which other keys are used in this set work?
C# minor (bar 80) and F minor at bar 91. A tonally ambiguous section also begins at bar 113, as the ascent to the recaoitulation section begins.
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Which harmonic intervals do we not hear when the music is in two real parts?
Complete triads or seventh chords.
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How are these harmonic intervals created?
These harmonic intervals are the by-products of counterpoint which is based on largely diatonic, modal or pentatonic lines.
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How does this set work use dissonances?
Aggressive dissonances are avoided, but instead, consonances such as 3rds, 6ths, 5ths or octaves are provided.
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In which bars are most intervals consonant?
Bars 1-4. However, the few 2nds are major, the 7ths are minor, and the 4ths are perfect, not augmented.
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Where does Tippett use more dissonant intervals to create more tension?
The C# minor passage in the Development section, starting at bar 80.
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Where are root position triads and first inversions (notably in the Coda) used?
When the music is in more tham two real parts. These occasionally help reinforce the tonality and even correspond to traditional functional harmony.
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Where is the influence of English Renaissance music apparent?
The D major chord in bar 51 is followed by an F major chord, which recalls English Renaissance music in the Mixolydian mode.
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How is the movement's melody created?
The melody is built upon a small number of melodic ideas heard in the first four bars.
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Which melodic idea is probably the most important?
The first four notes at the start of the piece, played by the first orchestra (A-B-A-B).
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How is this melodic idea manipulated?
It is inverted in the lower strings (3rd and 4th phrases of the movement, bars 8-11), imitating the first version, and major 2nds are replaced by minor 2nds, first in bar 21 to provide additional tension.
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Which other important motifs are heard in the first four bars of the first orchestra?
A-B-E (which follows the opening A-B-A-B), the following notes in the higher octave (G-E-G-A-G-E), and the concluding three notes, G-E-D.
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Which very important motif does the second orchestra begin with?
D-D-D-C#-B-D.
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Which factor implies the influence of folk music?
The fact that all four motifs use notes from the pentatonic scale of A-B-D-E-G.
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Which modes are hinted at throughout the movement?
Mixolydian and Lydian.
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Where does Tippett use melodic sequencing?
Notably in the lead-up to the Recapitulation in bar 126.
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Where is periodic phrasing (with regular multiples of two and four bars) used in the movement?
Notably at the start.
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Which types of music influenced the rhythm of the piece?
Ancient - 16th and 17th century English secular music (very flexible in metre), and modern jazz and blues, which witness many syncopations, with a quaver tied across the barline or the middle of a bar.
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How does Tippett's performance note describe the time signature's feeling?
"...many bars of the first movement are felt to be alla breve..."
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How does Tippett describe the time signature in his performance note?
"... the time signature is given as 8/8, not 2/2, because of the uneven beats of many other bars."
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How are unequal beats always shown, according to Tippett?
"... by the grouping and the ligatures [beaming], which give the proper rhythms intended for that part at that time."
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Why have certain notes been marked (i.e. "Beat 3" in bar 15)?
"... to nsure that they are played as three real beats (which in 8/8 cannot all be equal) and not as a syncopation of 4/4 or 2/2."
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How does Tippett emphasise the distinction between bars of unequal length and syncopated patterns?
"... a bar with 3+3+2 quavers has a real beat on the 4th quaver, and none of the 5th..." "... the accent thrown onto the 4th quaver is a syncopation... the true beat is on the 5th quaver."
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When does Tippett replace two bars of 8/8?
With two bars of 6/8 plus one in 4/8, giving 16 quavers in all.
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Where is rhythmic augmentation found?
Towards the end of the development (bars 95-106).
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How is the rhythmic augmentation created?
Tippett slows down the A-B-A-B motif by playing it with longer notes, whilst still using the same tempo.
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Which types of notes are used in the rhythmic augmentation of the A-B-A-B motif?
Crotchets, minims, and then one note per bar (minim tied to quaver plus rests).
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When do we hear the only passage in the movement without additive rhythms or syncopations?
From bar 99.
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Concerto for Double String Orchestra - Tippett.
Concerto for Double String Orchestra - Tippett.
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From the 1920's to the mid 1990's.

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